This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rinky-Dink Ink For Corporate America

I've never been
afraid to get egg
on my face...

Maybe it’s because of my advertising background or because of my love for writing, but sometimes when I’m bored, I like to write to companies about their products.

Occasionally, I’ll rant or bring an issue that’s important to me to their attention, but I try to write nice things about their products when I can since I figure that most people who take the time to make a comment are probably of the “ranting” variety.

I also like to be funny since I also figure that the people working at these mega-conglomerate corporations are most probably just as bored as I am (if not more) and are hoping for funny “product fan mail.”

I get the most fun from actually writing commentary to companies, but Company responses to inquiries can also be interesting.

Once I wrote to Jollytime Popcorn because I was annoyed that they were still using partially hydrogenated oil in their popcorn when Newman’s Own (& others) had switched to palm kernel oil. (I always like to mention the competition; it’s more fun that way.)
Jollytime got back to me with a letter stating exactly why partially hydrogenated oil was necessary for them…blah...and then gave me (3) coupons for FREE BOXES of their partially-hydrogenated-laden popcorn product.
Yippee Skippee, Hooray…
partially hydrogenated
popped corn
fun for me today!!!

Like I was ranting to them about their ingredients because what I really wanted was free product.

Partially hydrogenated oils in products has been one of my major peeves for about 3 years so it’s frequently one of my product rant topics.

I even wrote an ode to Cool-Whip about it:

Dear Kraft (Mother of Cool-Whip),

I used to LOVE Cool Whip... I'd freeze it and eat it right out of the container. I flipped when you came up with Chocolate and French Vanilla Cool Whip... That is, until about 2 YEARS AGO when I quit the WHIP... The ingredients on your label creeped me out: artificial ingredients I can't pronounce or identify, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils... all the stuff we, humans should avoid.

So, I'd love to give you a compliment about your product, but unfortunately, I have to lament on why I can no longer do the WHIP. I miss you, I really do, but until you take away the hydrogenation and come up with another way to sweeten minus high fructose corn shopping cart will wheel right by the refrigerated display cases of Cool Whip...and I'll look away. (I've gotta be honest. This just isn't working and so...I’m gonna have to start spending more time with Mr. Reddi Whip. Sorry to break it to you...)

Yummy Cool-Whip Ingredients

Yes, I told them I was cheating on them with Mr. Reddi-Wip made of real cream and sugar which may be why I never heard back from them.

Here's another of my ingredient rants, which I would have liked to have titled, Smart Start My Ass??, but I'm sure the Kellogg's people would not have responded favorably to that.

Dear Kellogg’s

I was disappointed in your cold cereals as I looked at the ingredients online today and found that out of the forty-one cereals I looked at, only 9 did not have either: a) partially hydrogenated oils or b) high fructose corn syrup. I've had to cut out some of my former faves
( Kellogg's Corn Pops, for one) because I cut the above ingredients from my diet about three years ago.

Come on, even original Raisin Bran and Cornflakes and all your "Smart Start" varieties? (high fructose corn syrup) Your organic raisin bran has neither (HFCS/PHO) so I know it can be done.

I hope that you can adjust your recipes in the future.

From A "Cold Cereal For Dinner" California Girl
From Kellogg’s, I got the generic “trans fat/partially hydrogenated oil” response, but in Kellogg’s defense (as well as General Mills) they both said they are trying to work on it because of consumer concerns like mine.

From Kellogg’s: “Our food scientists have been working hard to reduce or replace the partially hydrogenated oils in our products, while retaining the taste and texture you love. We have made significant progress as a number of Kellogg products, including Morningstar Farms®, Eggo® Waffles, and virtually all of our cereals, are free of trans fat.”

Thanks for the update Kellogg's...keep us consumers aware...and aspire to more than FDA minimums, thanks!

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

*Photo credit: Cheryl's Art Box/ Funnyface eggs/flickr

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Hills Are Alive With Boysenberries?

I've seen (and heard) some ridiculous advertising concepts in my day, and I especially enjoy seeing international commercials featuring well-known people, a la Bill Murray in Lost In Translation.

I studied advertising in college, even have a degree in it, but decided I didn't want to be the copywriter hawking Junior Mint concepts to un-creative clients, like Augusten Burroughs (as he wrote about in his book, Possible Side Effects) or become blinded by hours of doing layouts via Photoshop. I also thought advertising would be too instead I decided to go "swimming With sharks" in Hollywood... Doesn't make much sense, I know, but that's for another story.

As much as the Hayley Westenra commercial I posted today makes me, uh, chuckle, I also know exactly what they're selling, the qualities they want to highlight in those little boysenberry pockets of goodness, and it's of course, memorable and just under 30 seconds. All of which make my advertising studies deem it a successful commercial. I don't know though, you be the judge.

*Photo credit: Bostonthiparty/flickr

Hayley Westenra TV CM サマー・レイン

Now, don't get me wrong. Hayley Westenra, from New Zealand, has a ridiculously beautiful voice. But this international commercial struck me as particularly funny. International commercials are always the best. Oh, and apparently the hills are alive with boysenberries...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bonfire Of The Vanities

Bonfire Of The Vanities
(A fire swallows up a home near Lake Arrowhead in CA)
*Photo credit: Robert Durell/Los Angeles Times*

I don’t live within immediate eyesight of any of the current fires in LA and San Diego Counties, but I can definitely sense their effects. As I drove to work this morning, I couldn’t help but notice a huge, dark cloud over my head (which really isn’t out-of-the-ordinary for me, mind you), but this dark cloud had a brownish-orange swirl to it that made it stand out from the smoggy, hazy commute that I’m used to.

The sun looked as if it had just been rolled down a hill of mud, and the ordinary pillow clouds that should have been dotting a blue sky instead looked like a really creative chef had added the orangey goo of melted candy corn and a touch of cocoa to their usual marshallowy goodness. Eewww…

Mmmm…. get a whiff of that fresh air… like your uncle charring a piece of human hair on the family grill. Those yummy fresh embers have provided quite an olfactory sensation today.

BUT, comedy and my fun with creative description aside… my heart goes out to those who have, and our losing their homes, as I write.

is the worst thing possible because it erases everything in its path, and there’s very little you can do to stop it.

With the huge population here, maybe we could all just take a big, heaping breath and blow those "candles" out, all the fires would go away.

If only it were that easy...

Just ask Greece…

Monday, October 22, 2007

From It Girl To Drive-Thru Rehab

After the demise of Hollywood's studio system, sweeping changes occurred throughout the entertainment industry. The studios no longer held the reins of their own empire. By the late '50s, independent producers began making their own movies and actors and other industry professionals faced both the insecurities (and freedom) of being free agents. Hollywood was forced to deal with stars and movie-making much differently than they had in the past.

Under the new system, sometimes referred to as "New Hollywood", there are still talent scouts, agents, publicists, and studio executives, but their roles and influence in a potential star's career have changed over the years. In the past, talent scouts sought out potential newcomers through other avenues such as radio, vaudeville, and regional or college productions. If these scouts were impressed, the potential star was flown to California (all expenses paid) for a screen test.

Nowadays, actors and other performers are expected to relocate to California on their own-- and at their own expense. Each actor is individually responsible for getting the attention of agents on their own, as well. Certainly, reality shows like American Idol, Survivor, and The Amazing Race (and outlets like YouTube) have become, in a sense, this generation's "vaudeville." But when the competition's over or the glimmer of instant celebrity wears off, a few are lucky enough to win agents or to entertain other offers, but most fail to become super-stars. For other hopefuls, the road is rocky and difficult, at best. Today's performers find that most people are not willing to take a chance on them, especially if they are unproven or inexperienced.

"For the most part, agents don't like to fool around with unknown people," says Mark Litwak, in Reel Power: The Struggle For Influence and Success In The New Hollywood, "It takes so long that by the time they've made all those steps to get an actor started, he has already gone off to another agent."

Contrary to the studio era, long-term contracts are no longer common. Studios don't train or groom performers into stars like they used to do. The industry is increasingly volatile, the world is moving faster and faster, and there's not enough time or money to devote to readying an unknown for stardom.

Even with the help of agents and personal managers, actors are very much on their own. It's up to them to find their own way into Hollywood's elite. Being seen at the 'in' clubs, hooking up with the right people, schmoozing with everyone who matters, and increasingly getting into the news whatever the cost is increasingly important for both unknowns and stars trying to maintain their appeal.

These days, with so many media outlets worldwide, overexposure is just as much a danger as the possibility of never being discovered at all. Unfortunately, it's lead to a crash and burn mentality. Today's It Girl: Tomorrow's Drive-thru Rehab Patient, has become an accepted cliche in today's Hollywood. (I don't even need to name names.)

Sure, you can chalk it up to bad choices, being young and reckless, and the negatives of being blessed with too much too soon, but there's no denying that the casualties of young Hollywood need help. Those that are in the most danger are the stars that have allowed celebrity to become them. They have no ability to conceive of a media that doesn't pay attention to them (or their antics.) Many of these stars cling to the limelight in desperation no matter what it takes. Agents, managers, family and friends, and studios are generally going to be the last ones to set boundaries or to tell these stars-- 'No'--at least as long as there is money to be made.

In the new Hollywood, agents and actors have become the most powerful components of the Hollywood scene. Successful actors are still a type of insurance for movie studios. By taking over many of the duties of the old studios, these star's agents have been given a certain level of clout that gives them more power than ever before. Because of the widely held belief that the success of a movie rests on the strength of its star name, stars have accumulated the power to demand larger fees for their services and increasingly generous cuts of gross box-office receipts of projects in which they are involved.

More and more actors have become more known for being famous than for the quality of their work. Since fans still want information about their favorites celebrities, access to this information has become increasingly lucrative. As a result, the public is now bombarded by paparazzi shots, information about celebrity whereabouts, gossip, and antics from all conceivable sides. Everything is so de-centralized that it's as though no one has control anymore.

Stars today, unlike the image-controlled and glamorized perfection of stars for most of the studio system era, have become increasingly more like ourselves. Want to know whether the celeb trainwreck-of-the-moment wore make-up in rehab? Chances are, there's a paparazzi photo to answer that-- or a TMZ segment completely devoted to it or a fan-posted video on YouTube.

Way back in 1998, there was a little article in Spin Magazine called "Is Sandra Bullock Good For You?" In it, writer Steve Erickson presented a keen observation: "In our relationship with our movie stars, the times can be read like tea leaves. Do we needour stars to be the size of our dreams, or the size of our lives?"

His thoughts seems more pertinent now than ever.

Who's steering the content of our media? Is this what we really want? How do we turn back? Until we stop to ponder this, the never-ending course we're on will continue to careen out-of-control.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oscar News

63 Countries Seeking
Foreign Language Film Oscar®

Beverly Hills, CA — A record 63 countries, including new entrants Azerbaijan and Ireland, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 80th Academy Awards®, Academy President Sid Ganis announced today.

Nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 22, and the Oscars will be handed out Feb. 24


After The Wedding - Denmark
Days Of Glory (Indigenes) - Algeria
The Lives Of Others - Germany (* winner)
Pan's Labyrinth - Mexico
Water - Canada

Official Site Of The 80th Academy Awards:
Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not Just Football, Beef, And Corn...Nebraska's Johnny Carson School


This past weekend, I was surprised to open up The Los Angeles Times Sunday Edition to see a full-page ad dedicated to Nebraska. A strange moment passed: Was I reading The Omaha World-Herald, my hometown newspaper? I flipped back to the front page to double check. Nope, this was indeed The Los Angeles Times.

There, in plain view, was a photo of Johnny Carson, clutching an Academy Award, with an announcement of dedication to the new Johnny Carson School Of Theatre & Film…in Lincoln, Nebraska, previously known for football, sweet corn, and hunky steaks.

My home state of Nebraska continues to surprise me. Not so very long ago, I was a student at UNL where, as an undergraduate, I majored in advertising at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Film was my true passion, always had been, but working in the film industry was more of a pipe dream than a career path~ especially in a place like Nebraska.

Sure, I took some film classes, mostly studies of classic foreign films, but Nebraska didn’t have anything even resembling a film program of any magnitude. Temple Hall was certainly less-than-impressive, arts funding in local schools was being cut, Ballet Omaha was struggling, and Ak-Sar-Ben (where the Nebraska Film Commission formerly had their cramped offices) was razed to build an engineering school. Things certainly did not look promising…so I did what I felt I had to do…I left.

My, how times have changed. First, there was the Quest Convention Center and arena built in downtown Omaha, then came Film Streams (an independent theatre, recently opened in downtown Omaha), and now even an Omaha Film Festival is starting to get some recognition.

The new school, bankrolled by longstanding support and a very generous donation from the estate of Johnny Carson, perhaps one of Nebraska’s most well-known natives, offers studies in all disciplines including: film, production design, acting, directing, and theatre studies. The school will have all the facilities and the resources of big-time film schools including multiple theatre and performance spaces, editing suites (including both Avid and Final Cut Pro), a host of film equipment and cameras, and guest artists through the university affiliations with the Lied Center For Performing Arts as well as the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.

These days, as I continue to work professionally in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, I’m quickly realizing that Omaha seems to be having a creative renaissance of sorts. It makes me proud (and just a tad jealous that there was no Johnny Carson School for me.)

The new facilities were formally dedicated on October 12, 2007.
For more information about the Johnny Carson School Of Theatre & Film, including admissions and dedication festivities, please visit the following links:

Johnny Carson School Of Theatre & Film

Daily Nebraskan

*Photo Credit: Beebo Wallace

Monday, October 15, 2007

Historically Hollywood

Before I ever settled in Los Angeles, I studied the history of Hollywood quite a bit. I found it fascinating and I always secretly wished that I could have been around for Hollywood's "Golden Age." In college, I even wrote a thesis on it-- mostly because it gave me a great excuse to read the mega-stack of old Hollywood books I'd been reading anyway. My grandmother, a lifelong "fan" of all things Hollywood, also had a tremendous collection of Hollywood era books I'd been reading since I was a kid. Through my talks with her, I was able to vicariously live my own "Golden Age" existence ~ which was all the spark I needed to catch the entertainment bug myself.
With the explosion of the internet and my increased online publishing, I find myself again writing about Hollywood. Please check out some of my "Historically Hollywood" articles at the links below:

Evolution Of The Movie Star: How Stars Came To Be

Evolution Of The Movie Star: The Studio System

The Hollywood Studio System: The End Of An Era

*Photo credit: Secretspecialbeach/flickr

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Witches Brewing

There was something strange in the air yesterday...

Yes, it was Columbus Day-- that questionable holiday that appears on the map each year, but it was more than that.

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled into a parking lot and nearly ran over a witch on rollerblades. Her cape blew in the wind as she circled the lot, scowling at me. I realize it's October and Halloween is imminent, but isn't it a litte early?

Evidently, she (which I suspect was a 'he' in witch's drag) was skating around to promote a children's dentist office. I don't know about you, but if I were a child, nothing would scare me away from the dentist more than a badly-dressed warlock masquerading as a witch. Frankly, it still scares me.

From there, I entered Blockbuster to take advantage of an e-coupon associated with their Blockbuster Rewards program. I subscribe to Netflix, but thought I'd try the competition's free trial since my Netflix queue now stands at 70+ titles. (I badly need to catch up!) Perhaps the witch scared all the movies away since Blockbuster doesn't seem to carry them anymore. After surveying the paltry selection, I ended up with Entourage Season 3, Part 1 (the only decent pick.)

Then, I went to Target to find that all the chipper, albeit useless, young adult team members had been replaced by haggard-looking, not-so-nice, post-menopausal women wearing odd, I-can't-tell-if-it's-a-costume ribbons in their hair.

Now, I have nothing against old people. In fact, I really like them (better than younger people sometimes even), but unlike the nice, older people that work as Wal-mart greeters, these women clearly did not want to be plodding down the aisles of my neighborhood Target. Collectively, they clutched their price scanners and glared at me as I dared to try on a hat in the accessories section.

The day before all of this, I'd gotten that nifty Social Security Administration notice in the mail telling me that I'm eligible for benefits. However, they also told me that they project that Social Security funds will be exhausted by 2041.

In the Target aisle, as I looked at the vultures circling around me, price scanners pointed in my direction, ribbons (like horns) standing on-end with static electricity I told myself,

"Kendra, quick! Do math in your head...2041...the year you were born...Will I, too, be doomed to pick up a broom and sweep the bull's eye corporation myself in a few years?"

It looks like I'll just barely make it... but there's no guarantee. The witches are brewing and I still could become one of them someday...

*Photo credit: Kenny Maths

Friday, October 5, 2007

Harvest Moon Rising

I may not be able to see the stars out here in Hollywoodland (at least the celestial kind), but the other night, I was able to capture a perfect Harvest Moon. I ran outside and flashbulbed the poor moon like some kind of crazed, giddy paparazzi girl with a new my case, that camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ8 which I am still getting used to using.

I've been happy with it so far, yet flabbergasted by all the settings and gizmos which have prompted me to actually read the manual (something I typically avoid if at all possible.) This has been a rare exception...the other major one being the dreaded Photoshop manual I've been wanting to tackle for months.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Feist - 1 2 3 4

This music video is an incredible combination of synchronized choreography, art direction, innovative camerawork, and hours of rehearsal--all captured in one shot with constant camera movement. Reminiscent of Hollywood's Busby Berkeley of the 1930s...Enjoy!